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25th August 2010

A Walk over the Bridge and a Cruise Under It and Around Alcatraz

    I received an early text from Alex, the Australian lad; he had made me a reasonable offer. I met him half way on the amount, to which he agreed. He and his mate were over in Berkeley at the time, and would be heading over to San Francisco later in the morning, so we agreed to reestablish contact later.
    On that good news, I woke Dan up and suggested we drive to the overlook at the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge in order to walk across the bridge and back. Dan was ready in double quick time, and off we went.
    It was a clear, sunny day again, with a stiff, cool breeze. Walking across the bridge was one of Dan's "must dos"; he had done the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, so he just had to walk this one too. I was looking forward to the hike too.
The Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point Side
    The constant noise of the traffic across the bridge made it almost impossible to have a conversation. The number of speeding cyclists on the walkway was a major hazard. Normally cyclists would use the west walkway, and pedestrians the east. However, today the west walkway was closed for maintenance purposes, so the east side had to serve for all - mayhem.
    We watched an oil-tanker glide below us, with a tug and coastguard vessel escorting it. Then, for our further entertainment, a helicopter skimmed across the water, shot under the bridge, and almost seemed to loop-the-loop as it flipped over and returned over the bridge. That was impressive to watch, and would have been even more impressive as a passenger.
    We could tell from the raging waters below that a very strong current was flowing. Rocks far below the surface were creating turbulence and whirlpools on the surface.
    The engineering behind the structure was astounding, and the scale of it rendered it a marvel. The bridge was named after the part of San Francisco called the "Golden Gate" by John Fremont in 1884. It created a lot of controversy when it was initially suggested. Some agreed it could not be built, the navy said that should it collapse for any reason, the bay would be blocked.
    Designed by Joseph Strauss, it took just over four years to build, and was opened in 1937. It was the world's third largest single span bridge, stretching 1.7 miles. The two 7,650' composite cables that provided the suspension were more than three feet in diameter.
    We enjoyed our walk across the bridge and back, and then headed back to our hotel, where I now established contact with Alex. We agreed to meet up on the other side of town, and off I went.
    Once I had Alex and his mate in the van, we headed off to find a notary. I had already handwritten a Bill of Sale. Alex and I both had to sign it in front of the notary, who in turn put his stamp and signature on the document, for the princely sum of $20. I then completed the transfer details on the Title document, which I exchanged with Alex for the monies agreed. For good measure, I gave him a photocopy of the Bill of Sale too. The deal had been completed. I reminded him that he had to register the vehicle in his name within the next 15 days.
    I drove us all back to my hotel, where I gave the lads all the keys, shook hands, and wished them safe journey. Then they disappeared into the busy traffic. I was not normally attached to cars, but I was saddened to see my home for three months disappear off. Any down side was offset by my joy in being rid of the legal responsibility for the vehicle. I immediately got onto the registration authority's website, and completed the electronic form to advise them of the transfer of ownership, and thus remove myself from the loop.
Back View of Alcatraz
    Now Dan and I could freely enjoy the rest of our time together without being hampered by enquiries about the van. We headed to the wharves to see if we could get a tour around Alcatraz. The earliest one available was Sunday; a disappointment for Dan. So, we took a cruise that circled Alcatraz, and also went under the Golden Gate Bridge and back.
    When our boat cast off, the wind had freshened considerably creating choppy seas, and the temperature had dropped too. Fog was rolling in, a marked contrast to the bright morning.
    Alcatraz meant "pelican" in Spanish, and referred to the sea birds that inhabited the island. The army established a fort there in 1859 to guard the bay. In 1907 it became a military prison. From 1934 to 1963 it served as a maximum security federal penitentiary. Dubbed "The Rock" by prisoners, it housed an average of 264 of the country's most infamous criminals, such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly.
    We circled the grim looking island, getting a running commentary, before heading off to pass under the bridge. Scores of cormorants wheeled above the water, and windsurfers zipped across the waves at alarming speed, often taking off. Passing under the bridge was nowhere near as satisfying as walking over it. The cold wind and fog had by now driven a lot of folk below decks.
Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge
    As our vessel headed back to the dockside, a pod of dolphins accompanied us for part of the way. Soon we could hear the seals which based themselves around pontoons floating by Pier 39. Our one hour cruise was at an end.
    I took Dan over to Pier 39, where he did most of his present shopping. Once that was completed, we dumped our stuff back at the hotel and walked across to Chinatown, where we enjoyed a lovely meal in a restaurant six stories up, which afforded an excellent view over the city at night. As well as a bottle of wine, we also indulged in a cocktail each to celebrate the sale of the van.
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Uploaded from Francisco Bay Inn, 1501 Lombard Street, San Francisco CA on 30/08/10 at 11:15

Last updated 30.8.2010